some of my favorite literary quotes

When I say quotes, I don’t mean the sappy generalized atrocities that exist all over Pinterest. Those quotes give me headaches.

I mean quotes that twist and play with words, manipulate them to express some version of truth that has been previously ignored or obscured.

This is one of my favorite quotes on writing:

“All of that art-for-art’s-sake stuff is BS,” she declares. “What are these people talking about? Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren’t writing about kings? All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo.’ We’ve just dirtied the word ‘politics,’ made it sound like it’s unpatriotic or something.” Morrison laughs derisively. “That all started in the period of state art, when you had the communists and fascists running around doing this poster stuff, and the reaction was ‘No, no, no; there’s only aesthetics.’ My point is that is has to be both: beautiful and political at the same time. I’m not interested in art that is not in the world. And it’s not just the narrative, it’s not just the story; it’s the language and the structure and what’s going on behind it. Anybody can make up a story.”

– Toni Morrison

And this beautiful ending to Swann’s Way:

“The places that we have known belong now only to the little world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.”

– Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

And a few quotes about truth, war, art, and love:

“A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.”

– Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried


“The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of the transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration – how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?

– Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

And finally:

“In this way, even the lonely act of writing becomes an excuse to be around people. In turn, the people fuel the storytelling.”

– Chuck Palahniuk, Stranger Than Fiction

A few golden ones like:

“I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.”

– Oscar Wilde


“Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.”

– Oscar Wilde

And another few beautiful quotes that I’ve taken out of the stories (for better experience of the fullness and richness of the quote, refer to the original story):

“But I’ll tell you a terrible secret — Are you listening to me? There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his goddam cousins by the dozens. There isn’t anyone anywhere that isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that goddam secret yet? And don’t you know — listen to me, now — don’t you know who that Fat Lady really is? … Ah, buddy, Ah, buddy. It’s Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy.”

– J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

From another favorite of mine:

“It never occured to me that our lives, until then so closely interwoven, could unravel and separate over a thing like that. But the fact was, I suppose, there were powerful tides tugging us apart by then, and it only needed something like that to finish the task. If we’d understood that back then – who knows? – maybe we’d have kept a tighter hold of one another.”

– Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

And finally:

“Because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

– Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s